04 Oct 2014
Take another walk around your house, looking at it from the street. Do you have large, legible house numbers for your house that are clearly visible at all times of the day and all seasons of the year? If not, you need to get some. Put them on the house, the mailbox, and on a reflective sign by the street at the end of the driveway. If shrubbery will grow and obscure a house number, then you need to put the number somewhere else or put up a another set. Put the house number on the street edge so it can be seen from both directions, not just one way.Why is this? After all, your mother, your friends, and the mailman all know where you live. However, the paramedics, the police, and the firemen do not. People have died, waiting, while the ambulance tried to find them. Houses have burned down to the ground while firefighters looked for the house. Don’t make it hard for EMTs to find you when seconds count. Good signage makes it better for them, for you, and for the family next door when their house is broken into; the police will use your house sign to find their address.
Older son is a pizza delivery guy. He routinely sees what the paramedics see: no house number, confusing house numbers, illegible house numbers, dark brown house numbers on black backgrounds, white house numbers on cream backgrounds, house numbers twenty feet off the ground where you would never look, house numbers painted on the curb with cars parked over them, house numbers so small they can’t be seen from the street, house numbers that appear to have been installed at random; the list is endless. The pizza guys would like to find your house quicker as time is money for them. The ambulance guys would like to find your house quicker as they hope to save your life. The FedEx guy and the UPS guy would like to find your house quicker too. So do plumbers, electricians, paper boys, and furniture delivery guys.House numbers are available at your local hardware store and at the big box hardware stores in a variety of designs, some quite legible and others not so readable at night in the rain. The very best house numbers are reflective signs that you mount on a post at the end of the driveway so the ambulance crew can see where to pull in on a dark and stormy night. In fact, many many rescue groups, ambulance crews, local fire stations, and sheriffs departments sell, as a fundraiser, this kind of sign. Ask around; someone in your area is probably doing this. If not, suggest it as a fund raiser for whatever local group you are active with. Boy scout and girl scout troops can sell these signs too. I am partial to the bright blue reflective sign as opposed to the green reflective sign. I think it is more visible, day or night.
Proper identification on your house is used by EMTs and delivery people for your neighbor’s houses as well. They triangulate the location they are going to, by pinging off of the reflective house address signs they pass. This is especially important on back country roads where driveways are obscure and may be hundreds of feet apart. If every third or fourth house is marked so the firemen can find it, then they can find the ones in between more easily. After you install your new house number signs, check them once in a while to see if shrubbery has overgrown them; if so, cut it back and make the sign visible once more. And mark your mailbox clearly too. The substitute mailman will thank you.
Back, Side and Garage Doors
I have never owned a house with a garage and a garage door. The closest we ever came was a carport. Now we just have a driveway.
All the rules about valuables apply, whether you are talking about a driveway, a carport, or a garage. Leaving something theft worthy in plain and unsecured sight is just asking for a casual thief to stop by. Keep your carport or driveway clean and clear of bikes, lawnmowers, yard equipment, etc. You will have more room for your car and less incentive for someone to stop by and help themselves.If you have a garage, then only open the door when you are entering or exiting the garage. There is absolutely no reason to display your expensive wood-working shop for all the world to see, if you aren’t in it and using it. Garage doors do come with locks; use them, particularly when you are on vacation.
The door between your house and your garage has to be treated just like any other exterior door. Get a big heavy, exterior grade door, mount it correctly with extra long screws, and install proper hardware and locks. If someone forces his way into your garage, then that door is all that stands between your family and a home invader. Will some flimsy luan mahogany interior door be enough security? Doubtful. Very doubtful.
Tool sheds can and should have their own locks. Even if you only lock the shed when you are away on vacation, it can save your lawnmower, weed eater, hoes, whatever tools you store there. In addition, your tool shed (if it is large enough) can store other things you would normally leave out like patio furniture and gas grills. If you are going to be away for a few weeks, lock up anything you don’t want to lose. This protects things from the weather too.
Porches are lovely for sitting on and keeping you out of the rain when you are trying to get the door unlocked. Don’t leave anything on your porch that you would object to being stolen. This can and does happen. Several streets over from us, a homeowner had a pair of heavy concrete dwarf statues stolen from right by his front door. Each one weighed (he told me) about 75 pounds. He now has another set and they are chained down. In some cities, so I am told, you have to chain down your shrubbery! If I lived in a place where I had to chain my azalea bushes, I would move.
For heaven’s sake, don’t put a spare key for your front door under the door mat. Burglars know where all the typical hiding places are. They know what all the fake key-hiding rocks, flower pots, and turtles look like. Now you may want to put a false key under the mat, and then store the real key elsewhere. If so, the only really safe place is inside your German shepherd’s dog house. If your dog isn’t using his dog house — because he is in the kennel — then don’t leave a key hanging around. A trusted neighbor is a better choice.
As part of your overall household security, make it a point to check all your doors, windows, garage doors, etc, every evening when you lock up for the night. Get your kids to bring in any bikes or sports equipment they left on the lawn or driveway. Bicycles left overnight alongside the street can easily disappear. Don’t make it easy. Does this take time, to check your house and property every night? Yes. Will that time be worth it, when the neighbors get broken into and you don’t because your house was secure? You bet it will! Most burglars are looking for easy opportunity. Don’t give it to them.
Magazines like Family Handyman regularly do articles on home and garage security. Read up on what to do, and then do it. There are plenty of websites and books on the subject so information won’t be hard to find. What is hard is actually doing the work and then maintaining it all.
Next Week: Automotive Security